E-Exit – Heaven & Hell [Review]

Go to Hell!

Location: Budapest, Hungary

Date played: August 26, 2017

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 10,000 HUF ($39) per team of 2 players; 12,000 HUF ($46) per team of 3-6 players

Story & setting

In Heaven & Hell, our hearts had stopped and we were dead. We had an hour to puzzle our way out of Hell, through Heaven, and back to the land of the living. If we failed in the middle, we would be stuck wherever we landed for eternity.

A radiant blue hand in a white and blue space.

 

Heaven & Hell took us on a journey through death itself. The set was creatively designed and unapologetically handmade. The environments were not particularly immersive, but there was a lot of detail and thought put into their representation of an adventure through the afterlife.

Puzzles

Heaven & Hell focused on puzzles, particularly visual, spatial, and mechanical ones. It had an adventure component to it, but this was primarily an escape room for folks who want to work through puzzles.

Standouts

Heaven & Hell took us on a bizarre journey to puzzle our way back from death. It was delightfully weird and oddly charming.

The homemade, hacked-together environments supported the narrative. While grounded in established myth, they were unique, detailed, and amusing.

In-game: A red and black room filled with ghosts and skeletons.

 

The story came full circle providing narrative closure through puzzles. It worked surprisingly well.

Shortcomings

Although Heaven & Hell delivered a story, it was not particularly immersive or believable. In the middle, the puzzling was more like a smorgasbord of escape room-style puzzling in someone’s strange vision of hell and heaven.

A few puzzle components were a bit too hacked together and thus really worn. We may have accidentally contributed to the wear as we figured out how to manipulate them. Heaven & Hell would benefit from some repair and refresh work.

Should I play E-Exit’s Heaven & Hell?

Heaven & Hell was first and foremost a challenging puzzle game.

E-Exit wrapped these puzzles in a strange, quirky, and amusing vision of the afterlife. It was weird, but it worked. In this way, it was unlike any other escape room we’ve seen in Budapest, or anywhere else.

While we enjoyed this journey through death, we couldn’t help but wish it were more polished and refined. There’s room for E-Exit to take this escape room to the next level.

I recommend Heaven & Hell most highly for experienced puzzlers who can appreciate how odd this escape room is.

Note that there are two tight spaces in Heaven & Hell… and if this is a problem for you, your gamemaster can offer you an alternative path.

If your idea of heaven is puzzley escape rooms, look no further.

Book your hour with E-Exit’s Heaven & Hell, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Trap – Armageddon [Review]

“I don’t want to close my eyes…”

Location: Budapest, Hungary

Date played: August 25, 2017

Team size: up to 5; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 12,000 HUF ($47) per team

Story & setting

With an asteroid hurtling towards Earth, we had to initiate a planet-saving countermeasure before the massive rock crossed the point of no return.

In-game: The concrete military bunker set of Armageddon. The wall reads, "Security Level 5 in yellow."

Staged as a high-security missile silo, Armageddon had a minimalist design. It looked a bit sterile, and at times inconsistent, as we pushed deeper into the game. Parts of it looked militaristic, while others looked like the Budapest basement that housed the escape room.

Puzzles

Armageddon was more of an adventure game with puzzles. Both the fun and the challenge lay in exploring the gamespace. The puzzling was built around noticing interesting details among the props.

Standouts

Armageddon had a minimalist, bunker-esque setting that set a dramatic tone for the experience. The look worked.

We appreciated how well Trap used steganography.

Trap constructed some exciting interactions through mechanical contraptions and analogue technology. These were satisfying, tangible, and exciting solves.

Shortcomings

Armageddon focused on making discoveries within the set and the resulting interactions. In doing so, it lacked satisfying cerebral puzzles. We found these either overly simplistic or completely obtuse.

While there was a lot to do in the space, the lack of puzzle depth made Armageddon feel light on content.

Should I play Trap’s Armageddon?

Armageddon was an entertaining adventure that could have pushed its ideas further. The concept, set, and interactions were all solid and fun to explore.

A bit of advice for tall folks: in one section of Armageddon, you’ll really want to duck.

While experienced players will likely breeze through this end-of-the-world scenario, Armageddon would be a fun and approachable room escape for newbies.

Book your hour with Trap’s Armageddon, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Trap provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Gozsdu Mission – White Mission [Review]

It’s like being locked in a giant puzzle box.

Location: Budapest, Hungary

Date played: August 26, 2017

Team size: 4-7; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: ranging from 5,000 HUF ($20) per person for 2 players to 3,000 HUF ($12) per person for teams of 7 players

Story & setting

We were locked in a strange white room with the exit key hanging by a chain from the ceiling. The chain was just a touch too short to reach the door. We had to explore the space and figure out how to get that key into the lock.

In-game: Close-up of a large key padlocked to a chain in the middle of a stark white room.

White Mission had a sterile, sci-fi aesthetic. Its decidedly minimalistic layout made for an unusual environment.

In-game: A stark white room with empty white picture frames, and a key hanging from a long chain.

Puzzles

Built entirely around puzzling, White Mission had no narrative whatsoever. We need to explore the space, figure out how it worked, and then puzzle through it. Some of the puzzles were environment-based; others required more traditional logic, reasoning, and mathematics.

Standouts

In-game: A white control panel beside a white table in an entirely white room.

With White Mission, Gozsdu Mission deliberately designed a themed puzzle room without narrative. It was a bold decision that worked really well. The minimalist environment and stark contrast built excitement in and of itself.

We particularly enjoyed the mechanics that opened up hidden things.

White Mission leaned into substantial, challenging, and fair puzzles.

Shortcomings

While the puzzles themselves were well designed, White Mission relied too heavily on some common escape room play mechanics.

We didn’t enjoy searching in expansive darkness.

Should I play Gozsdu Mission’s White Mission?

White Mission was a 90-minute room escape. We listed that above, but it’s worth repeating. There was a lot to puzzle through and the puzzles were challenging.

If you’re looking for a purely puzzle experience in an interesting environment, White Mission is a fantastic choice. If you’re looking for a grand, narrative-driven adventure in a detailed set… then choose something else.

Newbies will likely need some help getting through this experience; don’t be afraid to accept hints.

Experienced players will find a lot of satisfying puzzles to chew on.

White Mission had a lot in common with another game that we love, The Experiment at Escape Games NYC. I suspect that White Mission inspired the folks in New York City as they are originally from Hungary. We’re happy about this as both are entertaining puzzle games.

Book your hour with Gozsdu Mission’s White Mission, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Gozsdu Mission provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Mystique Room – Time Machine [Review]

Hot Steam Time Machine.

Location: Budapest, Hungary

Date played: August 26, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from 11,990 HUF ($46) per team of 2 players to 19,920 HUF ($77) per team of 8 players

Story & setting

Doctor Clarence Guinan Donnolly, a professor from a small town in the United States, had accidentally stopped time while configuring his time machine. We had to set things right or Doctor Donnolly and his entire town would remain frozen forever.

In-game: A gear covered set and a large locked cabinet with a nixie tube clock.

Time Machine’s steampunk time ship looked absolutely gorgeous. The set was detailed and busy. In fact, upon first glance, I was worried that it might be impossible to tell the relevant puzzle components from the set dressing. Fortunately, with rare exceptions, the puzzles stood out from the decor.

Puzzles

In terms of puzzles, Time Machine was escape room-y. It had many standard escape room puzzle and lock interactions creatively implanted throughout the game.

In game: a metal stairwell in a steam-punk set.

Standouts

I loved the beautifully polished, intricate, and expansive steam-punk gamespace. It was detailed, but not distracting.

In-game: an intricate array of gears

Time Machine was generally composed of tangible prop manipulation. We particularly enjoyed one incredible door-opening mechanism.

Mystique combined analogue and digital technology; these blended into the look and feel of the Time Machine. In this way, Time Machine felt like a cohesive puzzling experience.

Time Machine was the only escape room that we played in an old Budapest basement that didn’t smell musty.

Shortcomings

While there was a story behind Time Machine, the narrative elements felt forced. We appreciated it as a time-travel steampunk adventure rather than a deliberate mission to help specific characters.

In fact, when the puzzles leaned into the narrative, they fell victim to “escape room logic” where things only made sense in the context of puzzle solution.

At the time we visited, 2 large set pieces in Time Machine were broken. While this didn’t dramatically change the game, it did stifle reveals. This was particularly disappointing since an entire space was devoted to one of these broken setpieces and thus rendered unnecessary.

Should I play Mystique Room’s Time Machine?

Time Machine offered a gorgeous set and fun puzzles. These were challenging, but approachable. The narrative wasn’t particularly cohesive, but that didn’t stop the fun.

Experienced players should have an easier time than newbies parsing what is in play and what is not. That said, players of any experience level could appreciate Time Machine.

Budapest doesn’t have a lot of room escapes with meticulously designed sets, so if that’s what you’re looking for, then Time Machine is a must-visit.

Book your hour with Mystique Room’s Time Machine, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Mystique Room provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Mindquest – Legacy of Noo’Zaca [Review]

Tomb Raider without the short shorts.

Location: Budapest, Hungary

Date played: August 25, 2017

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 10,000 HUF ($39) per team per team of 3-5 players; 6,000 HUF ($23) per team of 2 players

Story & setting

In the jungles of South America we set off on an expedition into a cursed temple to recover a mystical artifact.

Legacy of Noo’Zaca had a beautiful jungle temple set. It looked superb and the puzzling was deeply integrated into the surroundings.

Puzzles

Setup as an immersive adventure in the vein of Tomb RaiderLegacy of Noo’Zaca’s puzzles were all built into the set as physical and mechanical interactions. These all fit well and were good fun, even when they weren’t particularly challenging.

Standouts

Legacy of Noo’Zaca was an adventure. It told a story through the puzzles, which integrated beautifully into the set.

As we moved through the puzzles, the gorgeous set continuously revealed hidden secrets. We became increasingly curious about what we’d uncover next, which enhanced the feeling of adventure.

Mindquest seamlessly integrated analogue and digital technology. We particularly loved a few late game mechanical puzzles.

Shortcomings

One essential prop was in rough condition. Because of this, the interaction became frustrating.

While most of this experience was beautifully polished, we occasionally encountered exposed tech, which detracted from the magic of the space and could easily be covered up.

All too often, solving a puzzle triggered something to happen almost silently. Consequently, each time we solved a puzzle, we had to re-search the entire space to determine what had changed. A little bit of auditory or visual feedback from these opens would have gone a long way

Finally, Legacy of Noo’Zaca felt a little light on content. An extra puzzle or two would have made it a more complete room escape.

Should I play Mindquest’s Legacy of Noo’Zaca?

Legacy of Noo’Zaca was one of the prettiest and most professionally built games that we encountered in Budapest. It was a fun adventure with entertaining puzzles and good surprises.

As experienced players, we truly enjoyed the details in the set and the fantastic puzzle integration. We wished that it had lasted a little bit longer and given better feedback when we unlocked something.

Beginners will absolutely love Legacy of Noo’Zaca as it was pretty, entertaining, and still approachable.

If you’re in Budapest and love escape rooms, I would not miss Legacy of Noo’Zaca. 

Book your hour with Mindquest’s Legacy of Noo’Zaca, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Mindquest provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Pirate Cave Escape Room [Review]

Pirates of the Great Hungarian Plain.

Location: Budapest, Hungary

Date played: August 27, 2017

Team size: 2-7; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from 6,000 HUF ($23) per player for a team of 2 or 3 to 2,800 HUF ($11) per player for a team of 7

Story & setting

We were captured by pirates and cursed. We had to escape captivity and break the curse in this movie-inspired pirate adventure.

Pirate Cave had a homemade pirate aesthetic. The space was a lot of fun, even when the details fell short of convincing immersion. The sense of adventure was also aided by a few large set pieces that set the tone for each act of the game.

In-game: A wood raft in front of the gated entrance to a cave
Image via Pirate Cave Escape Room

Puzzles

Most of the puzzles were born of the props and set pieces within the game. They played well. A handful of the puzzles felt a little escape-roomy, while still working within the theme.

Standouts

Pirate Cave Escape Room was first and foremost an adventure. It conveyed story through the set, props, gameplay, and even hint system. Each mission was personalized, ever so slightly, and we loved this little touch. It enhanced our adventure.

Pirate Cave Escape Room incorporated standard escape room puzzle types through different implementations. The puzzling was entertaining.

In Pirate Cave Escape Room, we encountered many locks we’d never seen before. Some of these were pretty old. These locks – as well as many of the other carefully selected props – truly enhanced the environment and made the adventure more immersive.

There was a surprising transition. The designer’s willingness to build this made it that much more exciting.

Shortcomings

With a story-first design, Pirate Cave Escape Room could feel a little light on substantial cerebral puzzling. We would have liked to see more complexity and challenge.

Pirate Cave Escape Room nailed so many little details that the few places where these were overlooked stood out a little too much.

For tourists in Budapest, Pirate Cave Escape Room wasn’t far, as the crow flies, but it was well off the beaten path and difficult to find.*

Should I play Pirate Cave Escape Room?

We truly enjoyed each and every game that we played in Budapest and Pirate Cave was our favorite of the bunch. It was large, interactive, and highly entertaining. There were a number of larger interactions that simply didn’t need to be a part of the game, but the fact that they were made it so much more enjoyable.

Within Budapest, we played more interesting puzzle games. We also played games with more elegant set design. However, the way these things came together in the Pirate Cave put smiles on our faces.

Regardless of your skill level, we wholeheartedly recommend Pirate Cave.

*Do note that if you’re looking to visit Pirate Cave, you’ll likely need a taxi. We used the Uber clone Taxify in Budapest and it worked well. You should also follow the directions on Pirate Cave’s website and navigate to their GPS coordinates, not their address. We made this error and it would have been avoidable if we simply read the instructions.

Book your hour with Pirate Cave Escape Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Pirate Cave Escape Room comped our tickets for this game.

 

LogIQrooms – Napuche [Review]

A fantastic puzzle game with a variant in Las Vegas.

Location: Budapest, Hungary

Date played: August 26, 2017

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 12,000 HUF ($46) per team of 2-6 players, student pricing available

Story & setting

We entered an archeological dig somewhere in Central America where we had an hour to explore the artifacts and equipment of the dig site. With some luck and skill, perhaps we could make a discovery of our own.

A massive map on an unusual map table.

Set within an old brick basement in Budapest, Napuche’s unusual location immediately set the stage. The well chosen antiques and custom created props completed the vibe. It was a bit musty and felt especially compelling.

Puzzles

There were a lot of puzzles to solve in Napuche and they were far from trivial. Interestingly, it was easy to see what was relevant, but challenging to determine how to use the various components to move forward.

A stack of crates with a large stone statue atop them.

Standouts

LogIQrooms artfully designed the old space in which Napuche took place to enhance the drama of the experience. The rustic look contributed to our archeological exploration and set up some exciting reveals.

The crux of this escape room was truly the puzzles. Napuche combined layered thinking with prop manipulation. The execution was smart.

Napuche incorporated some outstanding mechanisms into its puzzles.

Shortcomings

We had trouble with some of the props in Napuche. Since some of the objects seemed breakable, we explored them too gently and thereby couldn’t determine how they worked. In one instance we had to use a beautiful antique to solve a puzzle. We would never have explored its functionality enough to operate it correctly without invitation. This could be fixed with a little in-game cluing.

The set sometimes responded oddly, such that we didn’t know whether we’d triggered something or it was functioning on a timer. One puzzle, once solved, only remained solved for a limited period of time. This was confusing.

Napuche was nonlinear and not particularly well gated. It was easy to waste time on puzzles before they were solvable. With a larger team, this would have been less detrimental to gameflow than it was for our team of two, but it would still lead to wasted effort on the part of a least a few teammates at any given time.

Should I play LogIQrooms’ Napuche?

We played a number of escape rooms in Budapest basements and Napuche used that old dingy setting better than any of the other games that we had encountered. The game setting and props looked ancient.

I highly recommend Naupche for experienced players. This was one of the more challenging games that we’ve played in a while and we truly enjoyed it.

Newbies would probably be best served by starting with something a little less difficult to learn their way around an escape room.

A variation of Napuche exists in Las Vegas, Nevada. The US version is known as Curse of Mapuche at Xterious Escape. I have no idea how effectively Xterious Escape compensated for their lack of an ancient Budapest basement, but it’s a shorter trip to Vegas for most of our readers. If you’ve played Curse of Mapuche, I’d love to hear about your experience.

Book your hour with LogIQrooms’ Napuche, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

 

Enigma – Mission Enigma [Review]

3 floors of adventure.

Location: Budapest, Hungary

Date played: August 27, 2017

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: 15,000 HUF ($58) per team

Story & setting

Our team of highly trained thieves was breaking into a facility to steal a mysterious object known as Enigma (no, not that Enigma).

In-game: A rope chained a locked in a maze along the ceiling. A world map in the background.

Staged within a 3-story home in a residential neighborhood, Mission Enigma was a heist adventure where we had to improvise our way through the building’s security, steal our objective, and escape with it. The set design was spotty. Some portions looked intriguing, while others simply looked like part of the old building. Some portions were old in an interesting way; others just looked rundown.

Puzzles

Most of the puzzles were deeply integrated into the environment and facilitated the large-scale adventure of Mission Enigma. One segment of the room escape shifted focus to the more traditional search-and-puzzle escape room design.

Standouts

Mission Enigma integrated mental and physical challenges into an engaging adventure. The completion of this adventure – after having finished everything that the 3-story space had to offer – felt like a true accomplishment.

Engima manipulated the gamespace into some exciting and surprising reveals. This was done mechanically, through simple custom-built machines. They created intrigue in what could easily have been an expansive and uninteresting space.

We enjoyed the puzzling in this escape room’s opening set.

When an alarm triggered due to a misstep, it had consequences.

The final act was exhilarating.

Shortcomings

Mission Enigma would benefit from more puzzle gating. It was easy to attempt to move ahead before we’d acquired all the pieces necessary for additional forward progress.

Since Mission Enigma was primarily focused on physical and mental puzzling, the occasional and random searching tasks felt out of place. In a large set where most game elements were presented, searching felt like pixel hunting.

It’s hard to recommend a team size for Mission Engima. In the first half of the experience, the space was too expansive for a team of only 2 players (but we made it work). We spent just as much time traversing it as solving puzzles. Near the end, however, this room escape bottlenecked such that only 1 or 2 players could actively participate at a time. Since these were the types of interactions that necessitate building mastery, it wouldn’t benefit the team to “give someone else a turn to try.”

I came out of Mission Enigma rather banged up.

At 90 minutes in length, Mission Enigma was large but still felt like it could have used another challenge or two.

Should I play Enigma’s Mission Enigma?

The grand scale of Mission Enigma’s gamespace and the breadth of challenges within it – cerebral, physical, mechanical, spatial, and others – made this escape room a formidable opponent. Although we weren’t pressed for time at the end, mission completion truly felt like a triumph. The victory felt earned.

Mission Enigma captured excitement and adventure through puzzling. With a little additional attention to gameflow and set aesthetics and polish, Enigma could take this escape room just a bit further.

Both new players and experienced players alike will likely enjoy Mission Enigma. Work together where you can and be patient where you can’t.

Note that this escape room involved traversing full flights of stairs. Additionally, one teammate needs to be fairly agile.

Book your hour with Enigma’s Mission Enigma, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Enigma provided media discounted tickets for this game.